By Dr Nisha Khanna , Psychology
Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint. It occurs when you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep even though you had the opportunity to get a full night of sleep. The causes, symptoms and severity of insomnia vary from person to person. Insomnia may include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night
- Waking up too early in the morning
Insomnia involves both a sleep disturbance and daytime symptoms. The effects of insomnia can impact nearly every aspect of your life. Studies show that insomnia negatively affects work performance, impairs decision-making and can damage relationships. In most cases, people with insomnia report a worse overall quality of life. There are generally two types of Insomnia:
- Primary Insomnia: The condition is not directly associated with other health conditions or problems.
- Secondary insomnia: The problem results from other adverse health conditions such as depression, asthma, cancer, arthritis or heartburn, or problems related to intake of medications or excessive consumption of alcohol and prohibited drugs.
Insomnia can also be categorized on the basis of its duration. It can either be acute (short term, lasts for a night to a week) or chronic (long term, 3 sleepless nights in a week for a month or more). In some cases, insomnia can also occur during periods of normal sleep.
- Low levels of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that is responsible for the regulation of sleep-wake cycles) disrupt the sleep cycle, thereby causing insomnia.
- Psychological concerns such as increased stress levels, depression, anxiety or even the inclination of a person towards high levels of neuroticism (long-term tendency to be in a negative state of mind) are the main psychological causes of insomnia.
- Medical conditions such as asthma, arthritis, neurological disorders, etc. are important triggers of asthma.
- Other causes may include excessive intake of alcohol and caffeine, nicotine or certain food additives.
- However, insomnia is primarily related to stress and anxiety related disorders.
The common signs of insomnia include:
- Inability to fall asleep, despite being physically exhausted, for at least a week or more.
- Persistent tiredness and fatigue.
- Constant irritability.
- Waking up continuously at night even if you manage to sleep.
Ways to combat this condition-
Chronic insomnia must be given prompt medical attention; much like other psychological problems. However, most people prefer to find a cure at home before visiting the doctor.
Some techniques are listed below:
- Maintain proper sleeping period and patterns: Go to bed at the same time every day and get sufficient sleep for about 7-8 hours.
- Cut down on caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Make sure that your room is quite, dark and cool before you retire for the night. Keep your room properly ventilated and switch off all the lights of the room before you go to sleep. To cut out ambient noise, you can use ear plugs.
- Relaxation Techniques: These should be done before sleep and include:
- Take a warm bath right before bed
- Meditate for about 15-20 minutes
- Listen to soothing music once in bed
- Drink a cup of decaf green tea
- Exercise: Regular exercises for about 30-40 minutes help in the increased secretion of ‘serotonin’ and ‘endorphins’, hormones which help fight stress and act as mood stabilizers. It also helps in bettering the body’s blood circulation, all of which help induce sleep.
- Aromatherapy: Oils and scents used for aromatherapy are available in the market and may prove helpful in fighting insomnia. The essential oil can be sprinkled on a tissue and 10 to 15 deep breaths of the same may be helpful in reducing stress and causing a relaxed state of mind.
- Manage anxiety and stress levels
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: Essentially a conversation centric therapy, this form of therapy aims to change your thought patterns, that can in turn change the way you feel.